Saturday, February 26, 2011

Indy talks

We routinely scan newspapers looking for free or cheap events. (We have not found a single "what's on" source.) This week we went to Indy Talks events. Indy Talks' purpose is to create a "sense of community through respectful and creative civic dialogue" The "respectful" sounds so Malaysian.

We first attended "The Indianapolis Immigrant Experience" at the Jewish Community Center. (As an aside the JCC facility is impressive, especially its fitness center. We would join in a heartbeat if we lived closer.) The panel included natives of Senegal (high school French teacher), Russia, Mexico, Pakistan/India (a Sikh), and Kurdistan (a former U.S. military translator). The elephant in the room was Indiana's proposed Arizona-like immigration bill. A reporter asked the panelists how they would feel if the bill passes and is signed. Their answers were in the next day's Star and on Sunday was the subject of a long editorial in the Sunday paper. Next, each table had a facilitator and four discussion questions. Our table just began chatting about our international experiences and being immigrants in one way or another. Our table consisted of the daughter of Swedish immigrants (they immigrated 80 years ag0), a recently arrived teacher from Turkey (he teaches Turkish in an Indianapolis high school), an African American couple who previously lived in Mexico, and the facilitator who adopted a daughter from Kazakstan. Did the evening create a sense of community? Possibly so - I met interesting people and if we meet again we can continue our conversation.

On Thursday we went to a symposium, Imaging and Imagining the City, at IUPUI. The transportation panel reported on plans for an integrated transportation system, but at the end one panelist mentioned that most of the planned components are unfunded. Most discouraging is that the bus system has had to use its capital budget to meet operating costs. 75 percent of bus riders are bus dependent - most depend on the bus to get to work.

Our last stop was a poster session. I wandered with a woman I met during a break - a retired teacher from Detroit. She is one of 11 children (number 3) and her mom had 20 children! I hope that I run into her and hear a bit more about family life. As a fellow retiree she gave me advice about where to go to learn about what is on and venues for music programs. Doug's eye went to a poster with a picture of More with Less, a Mennonite cookbook that his mother urged on us.

I'll let Doug fill in the details: What struck me was this was a cookbook Liz and I purchased at the Friends Yearly meeting at Ghost Ranch in 1978. We still have it but it is full of stains (a sign of a well used cookbook). BTW, the pizza dough recipe is easy and good, especially if you use olive oil in place of the vegetable oil. We spoke at length with Helen Sanematsu, the instructor about the posters. (Helen took the picture and sent it to us! Speaking with Helen made me think about the role of photography in changing the perceptions of the photographer.) We were struck with the lack of a "political view" in the posters. However that may be due to the differences in ages between the students and us. Another poster exhibit was presented by a sociologist who spent a year taking pictures of people at a soup kitchen. Rather than being an intrusive activity, the subject used the opportunity to have family pictures taken with typical stylized portrait poses.

The final note of this adventure was the article in the Dining section of the New York Times. The article "Indianapolis, The World Comes to Eat" which describes an area in the city where immigrants have established a foothold with a wide variety of eateries. As much as Indianapolis has seen a large growth in immigrant population, it is only a small portion of the total population.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Surprising MSU Library

Remember Ulysses Grant from your school days? He was the Union General whose victories included the Siege of Vicksburg, Mississippi. His presidential papers now reside in the Mississippi State University Library - 170 miles northwest of Vicksburg. Grant's return to the south was engineered by John Marszalek, a MSU faculty member and Civil War historian.

We met with the University librarian in the Stennis/Montgomery Room. The room was filled with memorabilia, which we had too little time to examine. Pictured here is a reproduction of the expanded GI bill authored by U.S. Representative Montgomery,the Montgomery of the Stennis/ Montgomery Room. Colleagues was signed the reproduction along with congratulatory messages.I did not know that such mementos of major legislative victories existed. I wonder if current legislative victories marked by rancor are similarly immortalized.

Before we left we visited the John Grisham room. We were behind schedule - so it only got a glance. A grave injustice on our part. I was anxious to get to our next meeting so I was a bit relieved that the Templeton Music Museum was locked. Not seeing the collection of instruments and phonographs was our loss.

As we left I stopped to check out the flower arrangement - it was real. I had seen arrangements all over campus. Apparently they come by way of the University's Department of Plant and Soil Sciences. North Carolina State has a Department of Horticulture and a terrific arboretum but no concentration in floral management or a University Florist shop.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Visiting Mississippi

Going to Mississippi on an accreditation site visit team did not seem like a boondoggle. I am not sure what I expected. When I taught in Grand Rapids, Michigan (1973) a student commented that in Mississippi the world was separated into black and white, whereas in Grand Rapids it was Polish, Dutch, and so on. On the campus of Mississippi State (MSU) blacks and whites make up 95% of the student body, but the word "separated" does not seem to apply.

We were visiting a MPPA (Master in Policy and Public Administration) program, We spoke with students in a graduate class; at least 25% of the students were African American males. I wish I had taken a picture - a very diverse group and no apparent knot of students that had arranged themselves by race or age. (To glimpse what I think of as the "new Mississippi" you can view photos of some of the program's students.) We asked the students "Why a public administration degree?" After so many years of working in the shadow of law schools and MBA programs it was refreshing to hear students being excited about their public administration degree and looking forward to a public career. I was struck by a young man who said that Mississippi is a very poor state and he wanted to give back to the state.

The MPPA program has an affiliation with the Stennis Institute of Government, named after the late Senator John Stennis. The Institute is house in a renovated railroad station. The photo below is of the Director's Office. The "Wiseman Wins" announces his son's election as mayor of Starkville, the location of Mississippi State. The recently elected mayor was a MSU political science graduate; he went on to get his MPA from a neighboring NC institution.

My hypothesis is that children of public administration faculty rarely their parent's career path. Our sons have shown no interest in following in either of our footsteps. The differences in our careers seemed to be summed up on this t-shirt. I will send the picture to Colin who is nearing the end of a doctorate in optics. BTW - the wearer was a mathematics professor at MSU.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Back to Work

Retired and back to work? Good news or bad? For me it is good news. I retired on 30 June and spent three months reviewing copy edits of Practical Research Methods, then we headed to Malaysia and India. Since then our days were spent packing or unpacking. Now that is done I welcome the chance to do something more challenging then going to the Y, reading the Times, and answering e-mail.

On Monday I head to Starkville, Mississippi to lead a NASPAA accreditation site visit team. Fortunately I still have 4 black suits; I put one on to make sure that my shape hadn't changed in the past 10 months when I last wore it. This site visit should be interesting - bad economy, diminishing budgets, and disdain for government. I wonder how students will view their futures and if the faculty plans changes in reaction to current challenges.

Once I return I will start to design a workshop for the United Nations Staff College in Italy. This unexpected opportunity came via a former student. The course, as of yet untitled, will focus planning and evaluation skills. I have surfed the web to identify potential resources and examples and reviewed resources that I have used in the past - resources that clicked with me and students. I am surprised and forunate that what I have learned, taught, and written about has opened up international opportunities (India, Italy, and Malaysia).

This week I "attended" a webnar on partnerships. Not exactly what I expected, but interesting enough to get me ready to resume my research on Malaysian collaborations.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Indianapolis Winter: A Newcomers View

Well it is February 9, and the weather report this noon indicated it was the second coldest day of the winter season (around 0F or -18C) overnight. The wind was gentle, but given the amount of ice, it is cold. However we expect temps to get absolutely balmy on Sunday when it will peak at 45F.

So last week we were hit with successive night of ice storms leaving 1.5 to 2 inches on the ground. The public works department did a good job of clearing the primary roads, state government workers came to work each morning, but schools were closed for 4 days as were most churches (from the list scrolling on the TV screen). Most sidewalks were not cleared in the beginning, so we walked down the middle of the street (alleys) and along the sides of the main streets. We made it to the YMCA each day as planned. It was reported that people has to chip their way through the ice into their cars.

The ice storm did not stop the winter farmer's market which sets up shop every Saturday morning just a block from the condo. About 30 or so vendors set up shop in an empty ground floor retail block under an apartment building. The wares at the tables vary from heritage apples, locally milled wheat, fresh lettuce,

range-free chicken, pig, and beef products, to organic marshmallows (who said organic had to be good for you), and hanks of knitting wool identifying the animal the wool came from (including pictures). Our divide on bread plays out in many ways at the market. I purchase pretzels and bread that will not kill you when thrown, and Liz build muscles lifting the bread, purchases organic apples, and passes on grilled organic eggs, free-range chicken sausage, raw milk cheddar cheese sandwiches, in favor of a North African breakfast stew.

Indianapolis people are not crazy. Please note the outdoor portion of the neighborhood Starbucks is deserted. But we continue to walk, walking to dinner about 6 block away at a Louisiana cuisine restaurant (hot gumbo for me...mushroom and rice for Liz), and the following night to a performance of the 1603 version of Hamlet. Many of the lines are roughly the same, but Shakespeare did edit the play to the form we are familiar with. See the Spider man production on Broadway is undergoing extensive editing process (but probably not the same lasting qualities).

Last night we went to a Town Hall meeting on Library Funding. It appears the arcane method of Indiana taxation, and multiple levels of overlapping government layers have the unintended effect of starving the Library system of needed funds. But it was a mainly intelligent discussion with only an occasional sarcastic barb issued (and not responded to). We left understanding that Indiana has a way to go to get out of its governmental mess. Just a note from the news: at a legislative hearing a corrections expert from South Carolina stated that "you know in South Carolina we incarcerate almost anything that walks, but you (Indiana) even exceed our expectations (not an exact quote but close enough for government work)."

Sunday, February 6, 2011


They say that marriage attracts opposites, but that doesn't adequately capture the bread divide at our house. I like dense, multigrain breads. Doug doesn't. Pictured are the breads we have on hand: left front a focaccia (bought when Doug and I couldn't agree on what bread to have with soup), left back a piece of sunflower wholegrain from last week's loaf and today's loaf, center Doug's home made white bread, a pretzel, and on the right vital bread (sourdough Wheat/Rye Bread with pumpkin & flax seeds, oat and fresh carrots).

It took us years to find "good" bread in Raleigh. We would buy bread when we went to DC or NY. Our search ended when local groceries started stocking artisan bread. Finding bread has been easier in Indianapolis. On our first outing to the neighborhood grocery I brought Scholar's Inn 8 grain bread/3 seed bread; it was as full of taste as the ingredients suggested. The bad news - it isn't baked every day.

So on Saturdays we walk less than a block to the Indy Winter Farmers Market and pick up a loaf or two of Brotgarten bread, the source of the pictured breads with the exception of the focaccia and Doug's loaf. Here is their Farmer's Market display with a glimpse of one of the two bakers.

Our search for bread will resume when we move to Malaysia. While I was in Penang in 2008 I identified two possibilities my last week there, so we may check them out when we return. Fortunately, Malaysia offers many food alternatives so I may not feel deprived.